Deputy Chief Prevails in Reverse Discrimination Suit

A well known Las Vegas deputy chief has prevailed in a reverse discrimination suit against Las Vegas Fire & Rescue and its former fire chief. Last Friday, Deputy Chief Ken Riddle was awarded $365,000 in compensatory damages from the department plus $25,000 in punitive damages against former fire chief David Washington.

Chief Riddle, who is white, alleged that Chief Washington, who is black, fired him in August, 2006 in order to promote a black officer to Deputy Chief. During the six intervening years the Federal suit has made its way from the US District Court for the State of Nevada, up to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals and back down to the District Court where the jury trial was held last week.

In a last minute attempt to amend his pleadings, Chief Riddle sought to add a count of defamation against Chief Washington, who allegedly told outgoing IAFC President Al Gillespie (who was the president of the Nevada Fire Chiefs) not to hire Chief Riddle as Executive Director in 2007 because he could not be trusted. Chief Washington also threatened Chief Gillespie by saying he would “have all the City of Las Vegas fire chiefs quit the organization if Ken Riddle was hired.” Chief Riddle was hired as Executive Director anyway.

The court refused to allow the amendment citing it would “unduly prejudice” the Defendants. Here is a copy of that ruling. Order

Here is a pre-trial ruling on a summary judgment motion that lays out the pertinent facts of the case. Ruling

No word yet on an appeal.

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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